Emerging Tech - Adopt or Abandon ?

Emerging technologies such as Blockchain, AI and Robotics continue to take center stage in the minds of everyone responsible for application portfolios supporting their lines of business.  New tech can quickly change the surface of an agency’s IT landscape and provide unique opportunities to better develop, deploy and maintain the portfolio. 

 

Just in the past few years we’ve enjoyed moving from tradition SDLC’s such as Waterfall and V-Models to some variant of Agile.  I remember my son, Jason, who is a co-founder of WaveDash Games, was visiting.  This was years before WaveDash, but Jason was already a rising star in the gaming industry.  We started sharing about what we were both up to and I brought up this incredible new SDLC called “SCRUM”.  Jason just smiled at me, “Dad, we’ve been doing Agile in the gaming industry for some time now”. Yeah … I felt my gray hair.  My background was in developing operating systems and communication protocols.  I followed a very rigid release process and my up-stack work was with traditional SDLC’s. Embracing Agile was exciting and allowed this old dog to learn some new tricks!  

Along comes DevOps, which turned the traditional delineation between App Dev and Infrastructure on its ear! Remember, FISMA requires a separation of duties; App Dev focused on transforming business rules into working code, database administrators focused on the health and integrity of the data, system administrators focused on the OS stack, network engineers, network … storage engineers, SAN fabric, etc.   This separation of duties not only drives how we manage tech, it also now drives current acquisition strategies.  It is these acquisition boundaries which causes tremendous angst to agencies who see the value of DevOps but fear the potential of scope contamination of existing contracts.  Organizations learned that putting DevOps engineers on the Sprint team to collaborate with the infrastructure team allowed compliance with FISMA, contained scope creep and moved these software development practices closer to continuous integration/continuous deployment rhythms. In short, the struggle was not a technology issue, but in most cases, a culture, contract or policy issue.  Wise leadership understood that abandonment was not the answer.  With some creative adjustments, organizations learned how to adopt these practices are now enjoying the benefits of “little a” agility. Today, practices such as Agile and DevOps have enabled lines of business to get features to market faster than ever before.

You can’t help but be curious at how emerging tech like blockchain works.  I set up a JavaScript environment and coded a little blockchain lab so that I understood the principle.  I was impressed!  I see how it works and appreciate the value.  My mind began to see all varieties of possibility and I, too, became enamored.  I began to immerse myself in available content and participated in as many live events as I could.  A deep dive into consensus algorithms was daunting and exhausting. There was so much to ingest, and new content was available hourly.  I had a chance to see the good, the bad and the ugly.  I know, I know … never tell a parent that their baby is ugly.  Most algorithms by themselves, have merit; the ugly is forcing consensus methods on applications that are not good candidates for that particular solution or trying to force a blockchain solution on applications that do not need to be chained.  Realizing the promise of any emerging tech demands wisdom in identifying the appropriate candidate application, planned introduction of the technology to stakeholders and a well planned implementation.

  

I have enjoyed participating in modernization and transformation engagements in the commercial and government IT landscapes throughout my career.  That experience afforded me the privilege of an IT leadership role in three (3) Presidential Transition Teams (PTT).  Throughout the years I’ve gained an appreciation of, and am sensitive to, the role that the line of business, the agency’s culture, the workforce, contract boundaries and current policy play in impacting any enterprise IT endeavor; especially the large engagements.  In encapsulating some of those experiential “bumps and bruises”, I’ve identified seven (7) practices that can greatly assist in seeing emerging technology gain widespread adoption.  This is just simple wisdom, proven over time to gain repeated success.   My goal is to express these practices over the next several days in subsequent articles. My hope is that you find them helpful in your sphere of influence. 

Finally, I have the honor and privilege to participate and contribute in the Blockchain Working Group (BWG), American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) Emerging Technology Community of Interest.  Upon completion of the ACT-IAC Enabling Blockchain Innovation in the U.S. Federal Government – A Blockchain Primer, the BWG identified five crucial stages in the successful implementation of business centric blockchain. Meeting every week, with subcommittees meeting several times a week, the BWG is working on the Blockchain Playbook; a resource that will guide IT stakeholders in deploying blockchain into their enterprise.  Three of the five phases are available now and be obtained at the following link:

https://www.actiac.org/act-iac-white-paper-blockchain-playbook-us-federal-government

Incredible thought leadership from contemporary IT and business experts from both industry and federal government is woven into these online resources.  It is well worth spending time ingesting and digesting its content.  I will reference these completed and work-in-progress resources from time to time in the following articles.  So, please stay tuned. 

Mike.Rice@CornerStoneIT-llc.com

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